Having been full time with toilet for more than two years; cleaning, managing, designing, building, lobbying, auditing, campaigning... leaving no shit unturned for the sake of the toilet, one day when Health Minister, Lyonpo Tandin offered Bhutan Toilet Org. to take up a part of project Health Ministry is doing with rural sanitation, I remembered my own village. It's like that carpenter not having a good home. Classic.
Of course, I personally laboured the construction of a modern toilet at home when I was in college and back then mine was among a very few homes in the village with flush toilet attached to the body of the house. But when I look at it now, with my mother aged beyond sixty and her son having become the toilet man, I wonder why I had built it on the ground floor.
Because when we venture into rural toilet project I want people to literally embrace toilet; bring it closer to them and not make it a shabby little room on the ground floor or worse take it far off beyond the kitchen garden. A toilet should be, something I always urge, so close to you that it's the easiest option so that even the oldest member of the family can use it anytime. Remember we too are going to be old someday. At the end, a toilet that is closer will always receive better attention and therefore remain cleaner.
But first I must have it myself in my own village home before I can even think of talking about it. It's about credibility and self-confidence; for people to have trust in my work, and more importantly for me to have trust in myself to take the leap without an ounce of guilt. After all these years I don't want to be another someone who preaches from a book for the sake of a project.
Therefore, this summer break all my siblings came together to gift our mother a toilet that is attached to the first-floor of the house and has all the modern features. Our earlier experience with the stone wall wasn't good; it gave us bulky and ugly walls, therefore, we decided to do the new toilet with bricks. My youngest brother, Tenzin Choda went ahead and started producing concrete bricks. By the time we reached he has produced a staggering 700 pieces. It was enough more than enough for a toilet, and two kitchen sinks.
|Toilet for my mother|
Our neighbours came around to watch us work and were impressed by the ease of working with bricks and beautiful finish we could achieve with it. I hope they will emulate our way of building a toilet and come up with sexy toilets for themselves.
Three brothers with helping hand from two village friends complete the toilet in five days along side two kitchen sink. Labour charge in my village is high but the two helpers worked over time to deserve the wage, probably motivated by our dedication. One motivation for them was to learn plumbing skill from me. Yes!
There were many new skills I acquired in Bhutan Toilet Org. and one among them is plumbing. The two guys had done many toilet works but they said they could never perfectly connect the sewer lines after putting the rubber washers. They would then seal the joints with a load of concrete plaster. Bad idea. It would leak very soon. I showed them the hack of lubricating the washer with soap to get the perfect joint and they were baffled.
Then, I took over the water connection using CPVC pipes, something I love doing. I gave water connection to the new toilet, the old toilet, kitchen on both floors with a system to control the water pressure (elsewhere it's about low pressure but in my village, the water pressure could blow up a brass bibcock.) When we released the water and it came splashing down into the kitchen sink I could see the joy on my mother's face. My plumbing was perfect; not a leak to be found.
|The functional Interior. Final touches waiting for another holiday|
I could see the pride in my mother's eyes when she showed our neighbours around the new toilet and I could hear remarks like, 'Pa, it's like a tourist hotel!' and my mother would modestly say, 'It's not quite done yet. They are going to put tiles and geyser later.'
God, it took me half my life to give this practical joy to my mother but now I am at peace. Now I am ready to work with Ministry of Health on the rural sanitation project, where I will use my own example to drive the change.